Maternal Health Status and Early Childbearing: A Test of the Weathering Hypothesis

Sarah O. Meadows, RAND Corporation
Megan Beckett, RAND Corporation
Marc Elliott, RAND Corporation
Christine Peterson, RAND Corporation

The weathering hypothesis states that teen childbearing among African American women is rationalized given greater early exposure to poor physical health and shortened life spans that result from the physical consequences of social inequality in African American communities (i.e., “weathering”). This paper tests a simple yet unexplored test of the basic assumption of the weathering hypothesis: do adolescents use their mother’s health status when making fertility decisions? If the weathering hypothesis is correct, poor maternal health and early births should be positively correlated among African Americans but not whites or Hispanics. Using the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID) we find that daughters whose mothers who have worse self-rated health are more likely to have early non-marital births. Moreover, this effect holds across race and ethnic groups and in fact, maternal self-rated health has the strongest effects among non-Hispanic white and adolescents of “other” race.

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Presented in Poster Session 2